Update, 10:05 a.m. Monday: Malibu Search and Rescue is reiterating calls to avoid hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains during the coronavirus outbreak.
In a social media post published Monday morning, March 23, the team warned hikers and other trail users that they were not only putting themselves at risk; they could potentially sideline Malibu SAR were the outbreak to reach a rescuer.
"We are strongly advising people to not go out on hiking trails. As an alternative, take a walk near home with appropriate social distancing," the post stated. "Malibu Search and Rescue responded to four calls this weekend. Hikers are putting themselves, fellow hikers and first responders at risk.
"While Malibu SAR has suspended all non essential activities, we remain at the ready to respond to rescue calls," the statement continued. "However, if one of our team members ends up with COVID-19, it could sideline our entire team. So, we are asking people to think before they put themselves, others and first responders at risk.
"We support people getting out in the fresh air and exercising, but prefer they do it safely close to home. Many hiking trails and parks, including popular places like Escondido Falls and Solstice Canyon are now closed," the SAR post concluded. "Please respect those closures."
Update, 9:38 a.m. Monday: The City of Malibu announced Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials would be closing Malibu's beach parking lots as of Monday, March 23, in response to overcrowding amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The following lots were to be closed: Topanga, Surfrider, Corral Canyon, Point Dume, Zuma, El Matador, La Piedra, Nicolas Canyon and Leo Carrillo.
The measure was taken, "to prevent crowding, allow for social distancing, slow spread of coronavirus [and] protect vulnerable groups," the city's announcement stated.
Update, 8:12 a.m. Monday: Authorities clarified the Solstice Canyon closure on Monday morning, stating "The only NPS site that will be closed is Solstice Canyon. All other NPS sites in the Santa Monica Mountains will remain open for now" in a social media post from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station.
The only NPS site that will be closed is Solstice Canyon. All other NPS sites in the Santa Monica Mountains will remain open for now. -Ranger Ana Beatriz https://t.co/UVLI4FpD2x— LASD Lost Hills Stn. (@LHSLASD) March 23, 2020
Update: 6:06 p.m. Sunday: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area announced the closure of Solstice Canyon in Malibu beginning Monday, March 23, although trails would remain open.
"Overcrowding at the popular site had become a concern," a social media post on Sunday evening, March 22, stated. "Park & public health officials are monitoring use & may close other sites if social distancing can't be maintained."
Solstice Canyon will close Mar 23. Hiking, biking, equestrian trails, pkg lots & restrooms will remain open. Overcrowding at the popular site had become a concern. Park & public health officials are monitoring use & may close other sites if social distancing can't be maintained. pic.twitter.com/lp2TKrbshl— Santa Monica Mtns (@SantaMonicaMtns) March 23, 2020
The City of Malibu is urging visitors and locals to obey safe distancing while enjoying Malibu's trails and beaches during the ongoing LA County COVID-19 outbreak. While cities such as Santa Monica, which owns its beach parking lots, have hurried to shut down access to beaches in response to crowds gathering on the coast, Malibu officials have stressed they do not have the authority to enact similar restrictions.
In response to complaints that droves of visitors were flocking to the Santa Monica Mountains during a brief break in the rain that's been sweeping through Southern California throughout mid-March, the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (MRCA) announced Sunday "ALL parks, trails and building facilities, including restrooms, operated by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority are CLOSED until further notice in response to COVID-19 outbreak." The closure included access roads and parking lots.
On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and others urged Californians under the new "Safer at Home" order to enjoy time outdoors while maintaining safe social distancing of at least six feet.
Over the weekend, droves of Angelenos took to Malibu's beaches and trails, evidently to obey the suggestion they enjoy fresh air—but many, according to multiple reports—were not so careful to maintain safe social distancing to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
"The City of Malibu is receiving reports of large numbers of people enjoying the outdoor resources in the Malibu area such as the pier, trails and beaches (as they are elsewhere in the county). The county order requires that social distancing (six feet between people) be practiced at all times while outdoors, including in the grocery store, on the beach, pier or on the trails," a press release from the City of Malibu sent out Sunday afternoon, March 22, read.
As locals demanded city leadership work to shut down visitor access, the city emphasized it had no authority over public lands located in and around Malibu.
"The city does not own or operate the county beaches, California State Parks, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority trails and parks, or the state-owned Malibu Pier and Point Dume Nature Preserve, or National Park Service-owned areas including Solstice Canyon," the statement continued. "The city shares the concerns about the need to limit visitors and crowds and is working with state and county elected officials and urging them to address the issue of people not abiding by social distancing guidelines while using outdoor spaces and stay at home orders. The mayor is asking for county and state properties such as the beaches, pier, local parks and all related parking lots to be closed as well."
As of Sunday, LA County reported a total of 409 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 countywide, with five confirmed deaths due to the outbreak; however, there was no Malibu-specific data available.
For more local news and information on Coronavirus, visit The Malibu Times' COVID-19 page.